Austin: A Texas Star

“Austin is a liberal bastion in the middle of Texas” she said while sitting cross-legged on a leather ottoman in the lobby of the Hotel San Jose.

Lindsey was born and raised in Austin, and though she went to school in New York she was back home for good and had recently started a consulting company.

We talked about everything from Austin’s recent surge in popularity and abundance of entrepreneurial opportunities, to the city’s continual argument over who serves the best tacos and whether its worth waiting in line for hours to get barbecue.

As our conversation energetically jumped from topic to topic, I witnessed in the background a varying, eclectic parade of people checking in and out of the hotel. From New York street-style, to Coachella west coast glam, we seemed to be at an epicenter for creative comers and goers.

Intrigued by the history of this charismatic Texan oasis, we began to discuss where Austin came from and where she believed it was going.

“'Austin has always had great music, great food, and interesting people' she stated proudly. 'And considering the conservative culture, politics, and historical tendencies of the rest of Texas, we’re like the rebellious teenagers of the family tree.'”

“But in the past few years, Austin has exploded in popularity. Having been born here, have you noticed any growing pains during this recent swell?” I asked.

“Definitely,” she replied immediately.

“Years ago, Austin was still a relatively small place. For example, we’re the live music capital of the world, but now we’re hitting a point where artists and musicians are not going to be able to afford to live here anymore.” she confessed.

“But isn’t the funky, creative vibe whats made this place so popular in the first place? What happens if that goes away?” I asked nervously.

For the first time in our lively conversation, she paused before answering.

As if not wanting to imagine a homogenized Austin for fear of it coming true, she answered empathetically:

“Well, Austin never planned to be a big city. But its starting to happen.”

She explained that inefficiencies in public transportation and the side effects of poor city planning had been amplified by the rapid growth.

“Its impractical for someone to wait at a bus stop for 20 minutes in the Texas heat for a bus that doesn’t take them close enough anyways so they still have to walk to get to their destination.”

But growing pains are not stunting Austin’s growth and people continue to move in.

I had noticed prior to my trip that whenever I told someone I was heading to Austin they always complimented the city’s character. Cool, nice, fun, and funky is what they remembered.

Whether they had noticed it or not, the city’s increasing mess of traffic jams and rising cost of living didn’t stick around in their memories.

The following night, I stopped to listen to a talented young woman singing and playing guitar on a street outside of a busy restaurant.

As I stood there admiring the beauty of her voice, many people walked by without stopping and I was amazed at how few of them actually noticed she was performing.

But when someone did notice, they fell under the same enchantment and turned to a friend to say “Wow, she’s really good,” or similar praise.

Before I left I told her to “keep it up and never stop doing what she loves.” I took one of her cards so I remember her name because I’d be surprised if she doesn’t make it big one day.

The city of Austin is an earnest, rising star.

Its growing quickly and getting a lot of attention, and I hope that through its transformation it remains bright and bold, fun and weird, creative and talented; the way it always has been.

After 5 days in Austin, here were my favorites:

Restaurants: Perla’s, Cooper’s BBQ, Taco Joint Food truck: Four Brothers Venezuelan Arepas at the food truck park on Rainey street Bars: Lucille’s on Rainey Street, Hotel Van Zandt, Hotel San Jose Activities: Wakeboarding at Canyon Lake, and dancing/live music at The White Horse